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Anna Bowman Dodd's


The Republic of the Future
Story Summary
The story takes place in New York, 2050.  The first-person narrative is
derived from a series of letters from Wolfgang, a Swedish tourist, to his
European friend Hannevig.  As Wolfgang visits the city, he comments on
the socialistic nation that America has become.  Wolfgang is assisted by
a "young lady-friend," the daughter of a gentleman Wolfgang attempted to
meet while in town, who often explains the unfamilar socialist rules and
customs.  In the end, Wolfgang gladly returns home to Sweden, a country
"still chaotic, and unformed, and unredeemed, and unregenerate.  But
[still] tremendously alive" (Dodd 85).

Dodd's short "utopian" novel is unusual for two reasons.  It is a satire,


and its biting wit is probably only topped by Twain.  In fact, it presents a
New York so dismal that it nearly becomes a dystopia.   Secondly, it is
written by a woman, who unlike most of her male counterparts, is
pessimistic about the wonders of a socialistic State.

Utopianisms
The State is firmly present and in control, has eliminated the capitalistic
system, and has made everyone equal.  Yet, "[t]he abolition of poverty,
and the raising of all classes to a common level of comfort and security,
has resulted in the most deadening uniformity" (21).  Every house is
exactly the same (19); men and women dress the same (26).  Women
have been freed from motherhood, since the State raises all children
(39).  But the similarity of men and women has created a "gradual decay
of the erotic sentiment" (37).  People only work "two hours a day," and
spend most of their time bored, walking up and down the streets (64).

Technology is miraculous and imaginative in 2050.  Wolfgang arrives in


New York by a "sub-marine . . . pneumatic tube" car, which  travels three
hundred miles an hour (8-9).  There are also "air-balloon omnibuses" (15). 
Machinery removes the drudgery of work from these utopians, since
"labor of a degrading order is forbidden by law" (18).  Food is prepared
and distributed through "culinary conduits," where food comes "in bottles
or in pellets" (30).  This is another act of liberation for women: "When the
last pie was made into the first pellet, woman's true freedom
began" (31).  Machines even take care of all housework; although women

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still "take the management of the house," they can do so "single-


handed" (32).

Religion is abolished.  It "brought about discussion." Therefore, "[i]t was


voted immoral" (81).  In its place is a system of Ethics, with Ethical
temples.  Wars have been also "within the last fifty years declared
illegal" (43):

Women found . . . when it came to war she made a poor figure of a


soldier.  Wars, therefore, were soon voted down; foreign difficulties were
adjusted by arbitration.  As women, as a rule, were send on these foreign
diplomatic missions, I have heard it wickedly whispered that the chief
cause of the unusually speedy conclusion of any trouble . . . was because
of the babel of tongues which ensued: a foreign court being willing to
concede any thing rather than continue negotiations with women-
diplomats.  But this of course, is to be put down to pure maliciousness. 
Women, since time immemorial, have had the best of men whenever it
came to contests of the tongue, and this appears to be the one insignia of
their former prestige which the sex insists on claiming.  (43-44)

Wolfgang also notes that socialists and anarchists responsible for


America's revolution were foreigners.  The trouble started when the
Germans, Irish, and Russians were "given all rights of citizenship . . . in a
moment of mistaken republican zeal" (48).  After the initial revolution,
however, there was much chaos.  In the end, it took "descendents of the
ancient New England statesman" -- in other words, white men -- to
establish control (51).

This socialist order does not seem to make the citizens happy.  "Have
they not come to the consummation of everything, of their dreams and
their hopes and desires?" Wolfgang asks (23).  Perhaps, he quips, "[a]
man can't have his dream and dream it too" (23).

Criticism
Dodd is not kind to other races, nationalities, or even her own gender. 
She is clearly anti-socialist and xenophobic; she cannot see how a
woman can be psychologically strong and a feminist without becoming
masculine, or worse, androgynous.  Still, her female voice argues strongly
against the typical male socialist utopian sentiments of the time; indeed,
if one did not know that Republic was published one year before
Bellamy's Looking Backward, he or she would likely assume Dodd was
attacking Bellamy's novel directly.  "Mrs. Dodd doesn't quibble about the
fact that a socialistic society is possible," Vernon Parrington, Jr. writes. 

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"She is concerned solely with demonstrating that no sensible person


would want such a society. . . . [D]esire is more important than the
fulfillment of desire" (63).   For its short length and wit, Republic is a good
read, and fairly detailed in its portrayal of a socialist utopia's
shortcomings.
 
 
 
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